Town of Johnston, RI
Providence County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The purpose of this article is to recognize the function of signs in the Town, to provide for their inclusion under this chapter, and to regulate and control all matters relating to such signs, including location, size and purpose. Signs are an accessory use and are permitted only in conjunction with permitted uses. Such signs are intended to advertise goods, services, facilities, events or attractions available on the premises where located, to identify the owner or occupant or to direct traffic on the premises. It is the further purpose of this article to preserve locally recognized values of community appearance; to safeguard and enhance property values in residential, commercial, and industrial areas; to protect public investment in and the character of public thoroughfares; to reduce hazard to motorists and pedestrians traveling on the public way, and thereby to promote the public health, safety and welfare. These purposes will be accomplished by regulation of the display, erection, use and maintenance of signs. The use of signs is regulated according to zone. The placement and physical dimensions of signs are regulated primarily by type and length of street frontage.
These regulations are intended to control the size, location and purpose of signs, and to ensure that signs are used for the identification of permitted uses and establishments and not for the advertisement of products and services. The design and location of signs shall be such as to not obstruct the safe and reasonable movement of pedestrians and vehicles, nor obstruct adequate sight distance for entering or exiting any site as determined by the Zoning Officer. No sign shall hereafter be created, erected, installed or altered except in conformance with this article.
The signs described below are permitted in all zoning districts:
A. 
Charitable, nonprofit, or private educational facility signs. Signs identifying charitable, nonprofit, or private educational facilities shall be permitted as follows:
(1) 
Wall signs not exceeding 20 square feet in area shall be permitted.
(2) 
Off-site directional signs not exceeding two square feet in area per side of sign, nor eight feet in height, shall be permitted.
(a) 
Temporary on or off-premises freestanding signs or wall signs advertising public social events, not exceeding 32 square feet in area per side of sign, nor six feet in height, and limited to one sign per parcel shall be permitted. The display of said temporary signs shall be limited to 21 days duration, shall be removed within three days after the final day of the event, and shall not be permitted more than four times in a calendar year.
(b) 
A permit shall be obtained for each time a temporary sign is desired and shall not be extended. The sign must be removed at the expiration of the permit or within 10 days after the completion of the advertised activity.
(c) 
A cash bond of $50 shall be posted with the Building Inspector for each temporary sign. This sum will be returned upon removal of the temporary sign. If the sign is not removed when the permit expires, the Building Inspector or Zoning Enforcement Officer shall cause the sign to be removed and disposed of and the cash bond shall be forfeited to the Town's general fund to help defray the cost of removal.
B. 
Directional signs. Directional signs not exceeding two square feet in area, nor three feet in height, and not containing letters, words or symbols associated with the identification of a business or the advertisement of products or services, shall be permitted.
C. 
For sale, lease or rent signs. On-premises, temporary, nonilluminated, freestanding or wall signs to advertise the leasing, sale or rental of a parcel, lot or premises, not exceeding nine square feet in area, nor six feet in height, and limited to two signs per parcel. Said signs shall be maintained in sound condition, and shall be removed within 10 days of the lease, sale or rental of the property to which they are related.
D. 
Government agency signs. Signs identifying, or otherwise relating to, all municipal, state or federal government agencies shall be permitted.
E. 
Political signs. Political signs of a temporary nature, not located on utility poles, on public property or within any right-of-way, said signs shall be erected so as to neither obstruct nor impair the sight lines of drivers or pedestrians.
F. 
Temporary construction signs. Temporary signs customary and necessary in connection with the erection of buildings or other construction work not exceeding 32 square feet in area per side of sign nor eight feet in height, and limited to two signs per project site, shall be permitted. Said signs shall be set back a minimum of five feet from all property lines, and shall be removed immediately upon completion of the work to which they are related. All temporary construction signs which are located within a road right-of-way shall conform with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
A. 
All billboards, roof signs, A-frame signs and portable signs, strobe lights, light bulb strings, steamers, spinners and devices of a similar nature, and all moving, flashing, rotating or blinking signs shall be prohibited in all zoning districts, except that signs indicating time and temperature and traditional barber poles shall be permitted in conformance with all other regulations of this chapter, and temporary holiday decorations shall be permitted in all districts for a period of up to 60 days per year.
B. 
The use of fencing for advertising purposes shall be prohibited in all districts.
C. 
No use shall be allowed to display for advertisement or other purposes any signs, placards, or other like materials to the general public on the exterior of the building or on the interior where the same may be seen through glass or other like transparent material any explicit figures or words concerning specified anatomical areas or sexual activities as defined by this section.
D. 
No sign shall be erected or altered except in conformance with this article. All signs must be kept clean, neatly painted and free from all hazards and must be maintained in safe condition. No sign shall be maintained which advertises a product, use or activity no longer available or in existence. Such obsolete signs shall be removed within 30 days after the date they become obsolete. If a sign is hazardous or obsolete, the Building Inspector or Zoning Enforcement Officer shall give written notice to the owner of the sign and to the owner of the land upon which the sign is erected directing that the sign be brought into conformance or removed within 30 days from the date of said notice.
The signs described below are permitted in the R-40 very low density single-family residential, R-20 low density single-family residential, R-15 medium density single, R-10 high density single and R-7 high density single- and multifamily residential districts. Exterior signs shall not be illuminated.
A. 
Banners. Banners not overhanging the public right-of-way, nor obstructing traffic, nor interfering with adjoining properties or establishments, and limited to a maximum of two banners per establishment for a period of up to six months in any calendar year, shall be permitted on premises where the predominant, legally permitted use of said premise is nonresidential. Said banners shall be properly maintained at all times, not faded or tattered, and shall be securely fastened at all corners and ends. The occupants of any residential portion of a property upon which a banner is located, and the occupants of any abutting residential property, may object in writing to that banner. Upon receipt of said written objection, the Zoning Officer shall order the removal of the objectionable banner, and the owner may appeal to the Zoning Board of Review for relief of the removal order.
B. 
Freestanding signs. Freestanding signs, indicating the name of the owners or occupants, or identifying a permitted nonresidential use, not exceeding two square feet in area, nor five feet in height, and limited to one sign per parcel, shall be permitted. Said signs shall be set back a minimum of five feet from all property lines.
C. 
Pennant strings. Pennant strings not overhanging the public right-of-way, nor obstructing traffic, nor interfering with adjoining properties or establishments, and limited to a maximum of two pennant strings per establishment, shall be permitted on premises where the predominant, legally permitted use of said premises is nonresidential. Said pennant strings shall be properly maintained at all times, not faded or tattered, and shall be securely fastened at all ends. The occupants of any residential portion of a property upon which a pennant string is located, and the occupants of any abutting residential property, may object in writing to that pennant string. Upon receipt of said written objections, the Zoning Officer shall order the removal of the objectionable pennant string, and the owner may appeal to the Zoning Board of Review for relief of the removal order.
D. 
Subdivision or housing complex signs. Freestanding signs, identifying subdivisions or housing complexes, not exceeding 12 square feet in area, nor eight feet in height, and limited to two signs per subdivision or housing complex, shall be permitted. Said signs shall be set back a minimum of five feet from all property lines.
E. 
Wall signs. Wall signs, identifying a permitted nonresidential use, not exceeding nine square feet in area, and limited to one sign per establishment, shall be permitted.
The signs described below are permitted in the B-1 and B-2 commercial districts. Exterior signs, if illuminated, shall be so arranged as to reflect light away from adjoining properties and/or streets, and shall not be located within 25 feet of any residential district boundary line.
A. 
Awning or canopy signs. Awning or canopy signs, identifying a permitted use, not exceeding one square foot per linear foot of front wall length, up to a maximum of 36 square feet per establishment, shall be permitted on, along or extending from the front wall of a building. Awning or canopy signs may be combined with wall signs such that the combined area of all such signs does not exceed one square foot per linear foot of front wall length, up to a maximum of 36 square feet per establishment.
B. 
Banners. Banners not overhanging the public right-of-way, nor obstructing traffic, nor interfering with adjoining properties or establishments, and limited to a maximum of two banners per establishment for a period of up to six months in any calendar year shall be permitted. Said banners shall be properly maintained at all times, not faded or tattered, and shall be securely fastened at all corners and ends.
C. 
Credit card signs. Credit card signs, not exceeding one square foot in aggregate area per establishment, which are not illuminated, shall be permitted.
D. 
Directory signs. Wall signs, identifying a permitted use, not exceeding six square feet in aggregate area per building, shall be permitted.
E. 
Freestanding signs. Freestanding signs, identifying a permitted use, not exceeding four square feet in area, nor five feet in height, and limited to one sign per parcel, shall be permitted. Said signs shall be set back a minimum of five feet from all property lines.
F. 
Information flags. One information flag, containing the word "Open" and/or the business's logo, not exceeding 15 square feet in area per establishment, shall be permitted.
G. 
Pennant strings. Pennant strings not overhanging the public right-of-way, nor obstructing traffic, nor interfering with adjoining properties or establishments, and limited to a maximum of two pennant strings per establishment, shall be permitted. Said pennant strings shall be properly maintained at all times, not faded or tattered, and shall be securely fastened at all ends.
H. 
Projecting signs. Projecting signs, identifying a permitted use, not exceeding 12 square feet in area, nor projecting more than four feet from the building wall, with an unobstructed clearance to a height of 10 feet above the ground, not projecting over the public right-of-way, and limited to one sign per establishment, shall be permitted.
I. 
Wall signs. Wall signs, identifying a permitted use, not exceeding one square foot per linear foot of front wall length, up to a maximum of 36 square feet per establishment, shall be permitted. For the purposes of this subsection, signs installed on first-story mansard roof or mansard facades shall be considered wall signs. Wall signs may be combined with awning or canopy signs such that the combined area of all such signs does not exceed one square foot per linear foot of front wall length, up to a maximum of 36 square feet per establishment.
The signs described below are permitted in the I industrial, I-L light industrial, and I-S special industrial districts. Exterior signs, if illuminated, shall be so arranged as to reflect light away from adjoining properties and/or streets, and shall not be located within 25 feet of any residential district boundary lines.
A. 
Awning or canopy signs. Awning or canopy signs, identifying a permitted use, not exceeding two square feet per linear feet of front wall length, up to a maximum of 100 square feet per establishment, shall be permitted on, along or extending from the front wall of a building. Awning or canopy signs may be combined with wall signs such that the combined area of all such signs does not exceed two square feet per linear foot of front wall length, up to a maximum of 100 square feet per establishment.
B. 
Banners. Banners not overhanging the public right-of-way, nor obstructing traffic, nor interfering with adjoining properties or establishment, and limited to a maximum of two banners per establishment for a period of up to six months in any calendar year, shall be permitted. Said banners shall be properly maintained at all times, not faded or tattered, and shall be securely fastened at all corners and ends.
C. 
Credit card signs. Credit card signs, not exceeding one square foot in aggregate area per establishment, which are not illuminated, shall be permitted.
D. 
Directory signs. Wall signs, identifying two or more interior permitted uses, not exceeding eight square feet in aggregate area per building, shall be permitted.
E. 
Freestanding signs. Freestanding signs, identifying a permitted use, not exceeding four square feet in area per side, not eight square feet in aggregate area, not five feet in height, and limited to one sign per parcel, shall be permitted. Said signs shall be set back a minimum of five feet from all property lines and shall not be located within 25 feet of any residential district.
F. 
Information flags. One information flag, containing the word "Open" and/or the business's logo, not exceeding 15 square feet in area per establishment, shall be permitted.
G. 
Menu boards. Menu boards, not exceeding 36 square feet in area, nor eight feet in height, and limited to one menu board per establishment, shall be permitted. Said signs shall be set back five feet from all nonresidential property lines and 10 feet from a residential property line.
H. 
Pennant strings. Pennant strings not overhanging the public right-of-way, nor obstructing traffic, nor interfering with adjoining properties or establishments, and limited to a maximum of two pennant strings per establishment, shall be permitted. Said pennant strings shall be properly maintained at all times, not faded or tattered, and shall be securely fastened at all ends.
I. 
Projecting signs. Projecting signs, identifying a permitted use not exceeding 12 square feet in area, nor projecting more than four feet from the building wall, with an unobstructed clearance to a height of 10 feet above the ground, not projecting over the public right-of-way, and limited to one sign per establishment, shall be permitted.
J. 
Under canopy signs. Under canopy signs, identifying a permitted use, not exceeding three square feet in area per side of sign, with an unobstructed clearance of 10 feet above the ground, and limited to two signs per establishment, shall be permitted.
K. 
Wall signs. Wall signs, identifying a permitted use, shall be permitted as indicated below. For the purposes of this subsection, signs installed on first-story mansard roofs or mansard facades shall be considered wall signs.
(1) 
Wall signs, not exceeding two square feet per linear foot of front wall length, up to a maximum of 100 square feet per establishment, shall be permitted on the front wall of a building. Wall signs may be combined with awning or canopy signs such that the combined area of all such signs does not exceed two square feet per linear foot of front wall length, up to a maximum of 100 square feet per establishment.
(2) 
Wall signs, not exceeding an aggregate of 100 square feet per establishment, shall be permitted on all other exterior sides of a building combined.
Any sign, which lawfully existed and was properly maintained as of the date of enactment of this section, may be continued, but shall not be relocated, or removed and reestablished, unless in conformance with the provisions of this chapter. Maintenance, repair or replacement of the faces of said sign shall be permitted provided that there is no change in the area, height, width, depth or illumination of said sign.
A. 
Projecting signs. Signs shall have an unobstructed clearance of 10 feet from the sidewalk to the lowest portion of the sign, and shall not extend more than four feet from the face of the building.
B. 
Sign maintenance. All signs, whether preexisting or new, shall be properly maintained at all times. Signs shall not be allowed to become faded or tattered, and shall be securely fastened or mounted at all times. A sign which becomes faded, tattered, or insecurely fastened or mounted shall be considered a zoning violation. Upon failure to comply with the notice specified in § 340-41D, the Building Inspector or Zoning Enforcement Officer is authorized to cause such sign to be removed without further notice.
C. 
Sign measurements. All permitted signs shall be measured as follows:
(1) 
Area. Measured in square feet, the entire area within a square, rectangle, circle, triangle or any other polygon enclosing the extreme limits of graphic, writing or similar representation, emblem or any fixture of similar character, together with any frame or other material or color forming an integral part of the display or used to differentiate the sign from the background against which it is placed; excluding the necessary supports or uprights on which such sign is placed. Where a sign has two or more faces, the area of all faces shall be included in determining the area of the sign, except that where two such faces are placed back to back and are at no point more than two feet from one another, the area of the sign shall be taken as the area of the one face if the two faces are of equal area, or as the area of the larger face if the two faces are of unequal area.
(2) 
Height. Measure in feet. The overall height of a sign is measured from the grade directly below the sign to the highest point of the sign or any of its supports.
(3) 
Setback. Measured in feet from the outermost edge of the sign to the public right-of-way.
(4) 
Projection over public right-of-way. Measurement in feet, perpendicular to the property line, from the property line to the outermost edge of the sign, over any public right-of-way.
(5) 
Maximum permitted sign area. In all zones but the R zones, the maximum permitted area for signs on a building shall be based on the building frontage. Where a building front is on two or more streets, the total area for signs for each street frontage shall be based on the building frontage for that street. For gas stations, street frontage shall be used to calculate the permitted total area of signs. For any drive-in business that has a booth for employees only and with no public access, including a gas station, the maximum area of signs shall be based on the street frontage, and on a corner lot, only one street frontage shall be used to calculate the maximum sign area.
[Amended 6-9-1997 by Ord. No. 998]
As used in this article, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
AWNING OR CANOPY SIGN
A sign painted, stamped, perforated, stitch otherwise applied on an awning, canopy or marquee, including backlit signs.
BANNER
A sign made of nonrigid material hanging from or otherwise attached to a building or structure.
BILLBOARD
Any notice or advertisement, pictorial or otherwise, used as an outdoor display not related to the use of the lot upon which the billboard to located.
CREDIT CARD SIGN
A sign identifying, by name or symbol, one or more credit cards which are accepted by an establishment.
DIRECTIONAL SIGN
A sign identifying on-premises traffic, parking, or other functional activity, which bears no language or symbols for business identification or advertising.
DIRECTORY SIGN
A sign identifying two or more persons or establishments occupying a structure.
FREESTANDING SIGN
A sign supported by one or more poles, columns, or braces placed in or on the ground and not attached to any building.
MEMO BOARD
A sign mounted on a structure erected for that purpose, not attached to any building, which is used for the listing of available menu items at an establishment with a drive-through window.
PORTABLE SIGN
Any sign not permanently affixed to the ground or to a building; any sign attached to or displayed on a vehicle that is used for the expressed purpose of advertising a business establishment, product, service, or entertainment, when that vehicle is so parked as to attract the attention of the motoring or pedestrian traffic; any sign originally designed and intended to be placed and used on a temporary basis.
PROJECTING SIGN
A sign attached to a building wall which extends more than 15 inches from the face of the wall.
ROOF SIGN
A sign which is constructed and maintained on the roof of a building or on the building wall in such a way that it extends beyond the roof line.
SIGN
A graphic arrangement or physical structure which is designed or intended to convey information in written or pictorial form.
SIGN AREA
Measured in square feet, the entire area within a square, rectangle, circle, triangle or any other polygon enclosing the extreme limits of graphic, writing or similar representation, emblem or any fixture of similar character, together with any frame or other material or color forming an integral part of the display or used to differentiate the sign from the background against which it is placed; excluding the necessary supports or uprights on which such sign is placed. Where a sign has two or more faces, the area of all faces shall be included in determining the area of the sign, except that where two such faces are placed back to back and are at no point more than two feet from one another, the area of the sign shall be taken as the area of the one face if the two faces are of equal area, or as the area of the larger face if the two faces are of unequal area.
TEMPORARY SIGN
A sign, generally freestanding, intended to advertise an event of limited duration. Temporary signs shall be limited in size and duration of placement, as delineated by this article.
UNDER CANOPY SIGN
A sign attached to or hung from a canopy or other covered structure projecting from and supported by the principal building.
WALL SIGN
A sign painted on or attached directly to the building wall, which extends less than 15 inches from the face of the wall and which does not extend beyond the roof line.